This Is Why Women Like to Date Married Men Despite the Heartache

Wearing a wedding band may be the ultimate chick magnet. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Some women are attracted to married men, and a new study may have a psychology-based explanation for why. The research showed that when a man is desired by other women, his physical attractiveness is automatically boosted, suggesting the ultimate sign of a man's allure may be a wedding band.

For the study, the team of international researchers from the U.K. and the U.S. recruited 49 female participants from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland to judge photographs of men both before and after they learned the man's average rating from other women. The women were asked to rate 20 images of men's faces and hands using a scale of 0-100 for "not at all attractive" to "very attractive." Photographs were of male volunteers from St. Andrew's staff and student population. The women also rated a piece of abstract art to serve as a control.

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After their first round of ratings, the women were shown what they were told was the average rating of the men from either "some of" or "all of" the other female respondents and were then asked to rate the men again.

Results showed that women's rating of a man's facial attractiveness rose by an average of 13 percent after they learned about positive ratings from other women. Not only did the women rate the men higher after learning of their social rating, they also took less time to decide on a man's attractiveness. It took participants an average of 6.92 seconds to issue the first rating but an average of 4.54 seconds to provide the second rating.

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The researchers suggest this trend may be due to a psychological process known as "mate-copying." However, lead study researcher Catherine Cross, a researcher in the school of psychology and neuroscience at St. Andrews University, told Newsweek that although the findings may show evidence of our tendency to follow a trend, this specific finding does not describe how the women would act, only how they might think.

"We asked people to rate the attractiveness of images they saw on a screen," Cross told Newsweek. "We didn't ask them to make decisions about whether or not they would approach someone with the intention of asking them out...I wouldn't want to speculate about how people make choices about pursuing relationships."

Humans are social creatures and the opinion of others is hardwired to matter to them. This stems from the importance of group inclusion for survival throughout evolution, Psychology Today reported. In some instances, making a decision that was not favored by the group could have meant death.

Mate-choice copying is an extension of our psychological tendency to take other opinions into consideration when we make a decision, and this is not the first study to identify mate-choice copying in women. Research on this topic proposes that females tend to change the likelihood of choosing a potential mate based on the decision of other females and what other females agree to be desirable. In fact, one study found that 90 percent of single women were interested in a man when they were told he was in a serious relationship, but only 59 percent of women expressed interest in the same man when they were told he was single.

Cross explained that while there may not be an advantage to specifically preferring a man other women are attracted to, there is an advantage to using social information and the behavior and preferences of others to guide our own decisions.

"Information about the preferences of others might help us to choose safe places to live, good foods to eat, good career paths to pursue, or trustworthy people to associate with," said Cross.

The reason behind mate copying does not seem to be ill-placed. Rather, as Cross told The Independent: "Women appear to copy the mate preferences of other women but this might simply be because humans have a general tendency to be influenced by the opinions of others."